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Social-Organizational Psychology
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Social-Organizational Psychology

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Elissa L. Perry

Topics of Interest:

This workgroup primarily but not exclusively focuses on issues of demographic diversity and discrimination in organizations.  Emphasis is placed on using a variety of theoretical (e.g., social cognitive; legal; relational demographic; person-environment fit) and methodological (lab studies, surveys) approaches to conduct research that helps us understand the role that a variety of demographic characteristics (e.g., age, sex, generational membership) play in the workplace.  The implications of demographic diversity for decision making (e.g., selection) and organizational behaviors (e.g., communication, turnover) are explored.  Attention is given to the role of individual, group, and organizational factors in understanding issues of demographic diversity and discrimination.

Current Workgroup Members:

  • Elissa Perry, Ph.D.
  • David Mendelsohn, Ph.D. Student
  • Stephanie von Numers, Ph.D. Student

Current Projects:

Generational Stereotypes

This research is concerned with determining whether a case can be made for the existence of generational stereotypes, separate from although related to age stereotypes.  We conducted a first pilot study that asked respondents to generate traits and characteristics that came to mind when they thought about workers who were members of each of three different generations (Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y/Millennials).   A second pilot study attempted to further assess and delineate the content of these stereotypes.  Pilot Study 2 asked two samples of individuals (students and an older cohort) to assess the extent to which each of a series of characteristics (generated from Pilot Study 1) were strongly associated with their image of each of three generations of workers. 

Based on the results of these two pilot studies, we developed stimulus materials for two main studies (one that used a TC student sample and a second that used a sample from MTurk).  These studies used a scenario-based experimental methodology in which participants were asked to read a job description and then evaluate two applicants for a job.  Only one applicant profile was manipulated, the second was a filler applicant whose information was held constant across experimental conditions.  The target applicant was described as either a typical:  Baby Boomer, Millennial/Gen Y, 29 year old, or 60 year old.  Preliminary analyses suggest that there is a difference in how applicants are perceived based on whether they are described by their age or their generational membership.  We are conducting additional data analyses, and preparing conference paper submissions.   

Organization Demography
In light of increasing workforce diversity, it is important to understand the impact of this diversity on organizational outcomes.  To date, limited research has investigated how and when demographic diversity influences key organizational outcomes, such as organizational performance and employee attitudes.  Further, the limited research that has been conducted does not provide clear evidence for either a direct positive or negative relationship between diversity and organizational outcomes.  As a result, there is limited empirically-based guidance to assist practitioners in effectively managing a diverse workforce.  Our workgroup has data collected by a former student.  This student used a cross-sectional field study design, involving both questionnaires and archival data collection methods.  Her sample consisted of 285 U.S. colleges and universities.  We have supplemented this dataset with additional data related to institutional outcomes across a seven year period.  We are analyzing this dataset with the following questions in mind: 1) how does the racial demographic profile of an organization (i.e., a university) impact the performance of that institution; 2) what are the processes (e.g., social capital and group processes) by which demographic effects occur; 3) how does the relative demographic composition of employees and those they serve (students) interact to influence institutional outcomes?   In addition, we have data that captures the diversity climate of each organization and we intend to explore the extent to which this variable also influences organizational outcomes.  Our workgroup will focus on exploring the data, writing a conference paper, and eventually a paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

HR for the Non-HR Manager
In 2004, Carol Kulik wrote a book on Human Resource Management (HRM) targeted toward line managers who must engage in HR related activities at work.  Carol asked me to join her in writing a revised version of this book.  The original edition provided an overview of human resource activities for the non-human resource manager and the revised version will do the same.  The overall organization of the book will follow a manager’s human resource activities from the initial recruitment and selection of new employees, through compensation and performance appraisal decisions, and ultimately to unpleasant but sometimes necessary disciplinary and termination actions.  We are updating the material in the original chapters and adding chapters that address onboarding, training and development, and retention.  There are several unique features of this book.  First, this book is firmly grounded in the academic literature.  Its content reflects the latest and most robust research findings in human resource management.  Second, the book “translates” this academic literature into reader-friendly non-technical language and delivers practical guidelines to managers about how to apply research findings to their own organizations.  This book also is accompanied by an instructor’s manual which includes a variety of exercises and cases that must also be updated.  The work group will be involved in helping the authors to update the book and the instructors’ manual.  This book is due to be completed in 2016. 

Recent Projects Near Completion:

Gender Stereotype Violation
People have beliefs about how women and men typically are (e.g., descriptive stereotypes) and expectations about how they should and should not be (e.g., prescriptive and proscriptive stereotypes).  Women are expected to be communal (e.g., warm, caring, nurturing).  Men are expected to be agentic (e.g., aggressive, assertive, competitive).  Those who violate gender stereotypes experience social and economic penalties referred to as backlash.  For example, successful women in male-typed jobs are perceived as competent, but cold and hostile and consequently they are liked less.  Similarly, men who are successful in female-typed jobs are perceived as more ineffectual and less respected than women.  We have designed and conducted two scenario based laboratory studies to study the implications of gender stereotype violation.  

Our first study explored the implications of stereotype violation for a male and female target employed in a male-typed job.  Results revealed that a male target who violated gender stereotypic expectations (by not being clearly competent in a strongly male-typed job) was perceived less positively (less competent and agentic) and in turn experienced more negative employment outcomes (e.g., training, promotional opportunities) relative to a female target who violated gender stereotypic expectations (by being clearly competent in a strongly male-typed job). 
We conducted a second study that explored how engaging in a communal role (i.e., providing eldercare) impacts perceptions about women and men who are employed in a male-typed job and who violate their respective gender stereotypes. We are preparing a conference paper and eventually a paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. 

Representative Publications:

Perry, E.L., Golom, F.D., & McCarthy, J.  (in press).  Generational differences:  Let’s not throw the Babyboomer out with the bathwater.” Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice.

Perry, E.L., Hanvongse, A., & Casoinic, D.  (2013).  Making a case for the existence of generational stereotypes:  A literature review and exploratory study.  In R. Burke, C. Cooper, & J. Field (Eds.), Handbook on Aging, Work, & Society.  London: Sage Publications.

Roloff, K., Ferraris, D., Perry, E.L., & Johnson, B.K.  (2012, August).  Stereotype violation:  A comparison of women and men employed in male-typed jobs.  Academy of Management Conference, Boston, MA.

Information for Interested Applicants:

Please email Dr. Perry at